Interest in unroasted green coffee beans has spiked with the rise of home roasting, micro-roasters, and weight loss products. Although there is no reliable clinical evidence of the weight loss benefits of green coffee, there’s no denying the antioxidant properties green coffee beans have.
Vendors from all over the world have started offering their unroasted beans and they’re even available in powdered form for those who choose to take them as a supplement.
So, if you’ve just bought your first green coffee beans or are thinking of buying them, naturally you’re going to want to know how to store green coffee beans. That’s precisely what we’re going to cover in this post, and I promise you, your beans will be safe and delicious if you follow our advice!
The bean that’s not a bean
If you’re looking to store green coffee beans for any length of time, it’s important to remember a few key things about coffee.
You probably already know that a coffee bean isn’t technically a bean. It’s the seed of the coffee plant. The coffee plant produces red fruits and inside each fruit are three coffee seeds.
Those are what we roast (or don’t) and turn into our favorite delicious beverage – coffee. That’s important to note because when you store green coffee beans, you have to keep in mind that they are living organisms. They’re the potential offspring of the mother plant.
When the mother plant produces seeds, it’s a bit like a human parent sending their kids off to college. The plant makes sure the seed has everything it needs to get started with its new life. It packs nutrients and some of its DNA into a small package with a protective coating and a few defenses.
When you get a green bean, you get a tiny little living thing. When that seed finds a good place to settle, it unpacks those nutrients and uses them to grow into a new plant. Of course, when you roast it, it effectively dies and loses its natural defenses. This is why coffee lasts much longer if you store the green beans instead of roasting them first.
How long can you store green coffee beans?
The consensus is that green coffee beans can safely be stored for up to a year. However, that time will vary based on the conditions the beans are stored in. If you leave a plastic bag full of green coffee outside in the heat and the elements, it’s not going to last as long as if you put it in a burlap bag in a climate-controlled environment.
So, to store green coffee successfully for those 12 months, you need to pay close attention to the conditions you keep it in. The beans have specific temperature and humidity requirements. They also need to be kept out of reach of their natural predators – rodents, insects, and molds. We’re not the only ones who enjoy coffee!
All green coffee beans can be stored the same way, regardless of their origin. However, when thinking about storage, don’t forget to factor in how long it took for them to reach you into the 12 month total. If your beans were picked, dried, and packaged three months ago, by the time they get to you, you’ll have nine months left to store them.
Beans that come from local sources are your best bet if you want to store the beans for a long time. But, we don’t all live in Hawaii or Sumatra so for some of us, it’s simply not possible.
If there aren’t any local sources for the beans you like and you’re trying to decide between different overseas growers, their shipping times and distance from you should weigh into your decision.
If you’re buying from a distributor and not directly from the grower, you’ll need to think about how long the beans were stored at both locations.
What is the best way to store green coffee beans?
There’s some controversy as to the best way to store green coffee beans when it comes to what to store them in. My example of the plastic bag and the burlap sack are two ends of the storage spectrum. Available containers span the range in between.
All containers, however, aren’t created equal. A suitable container will protect the beans from rodents and other seed eaters.
However, the beans need to be kept at a certain humidity to keep them from sprouting or getting moldy.
Yes, green coffee beans can sprout!
Since they’re still alive, each bean could potentially become a whole plant if you put it in the ground. You can even keep coffee as a houseplant if you live in the right climate.
When you buy roasted beans, they usually come in a bag that has a little valve in it.
That valve allows gas to escape. During the roasting process, coffee beans release carbon dioxide gas. Although it’s mostly gone before the beans get packaged, there’s still a little gas that needs to get out.
Without the valve, coffee bags would inflate and potentially burst. The valve on this bag, however, only works one way.
That is, it allows CO2 to escape, but doesn’t let oxygen in.
Since your beans are still green, they won’t be releasing much CO2. So, that little valve isn’t necessary for your green coffee beans.
To select the best storage method for your beans, consider three important factors: temperature, humidity, and sunlight.
All of these factors will greatly impact the freshness, flavor, and shelf life of your beans and that’s why we’ll talk about all three of them. Any container that helps you keep the right levels of each will be a good place to store your green coffee beans.
What’s the best temperature for storing green coffee beans?
Your place for storing green coffee beans should have a consistent temperature, ideally between 67℉ and 77℉ (or 20℃ to 25℃). Most experts use the “if it’s comfortable for you, it’s comfortable for the beans” mantra. If you have a root cellar and can keep the beans away from moisture, it could be a great place to store them.
You could also put them inside a pantry or even in a closet. Just don’t forget where you stashed them!
In general, a garage is a bad place to store green coffee beans, since most are poorly insulated and prone to fluctuations in temperature.
The top of your refrigerator (or any appliance) is also a bad spot because most of these appliances release heat. Likewise, don’t put them next to the water heater, the stove, the attic, or in the shed.
Unless you have a climate-controlled shed or a well-insulated attic, these areas are also prone to dramatic temperature changes. Of course, anywhere your pets can get to them is a bad spot too.
Even small amounts of caffeine can cause serious illness or death in cats and dogs.
What’s the best humidity for storing green coffee beans?
The level of moisture in the air plays a big part in keeping your beans fresh. Exposing them to too much moisture encourages mold. While the beans do have a protective layer that keeps most parasites and pests away, it’s not bulletproof armor.
Molds that specialize in digesting seeds have developed enzymes that can break down a seed’s natural defenses.
Once your beans have gone moldy, there’s no going back. Even if you wash the beans, the digestive enzymes released from the molds will still be inside, not only ruining the flavor of your beans but possibly making you sick as well.
Keeping the air out of your beans will help control the humidity and storing them at the proper temperature will help too. The higher the temperature of the air, the more moisture it can hold. That’s why the freezer is too dry.
Your beans will start losing their flavor once they drop below 11% water content.
While it’s unlikely for home roasters to have the equipment used to measure this level in the bean, it’s easy to monitor the ambient humidity in a space.
The target humidity for storing your green coffee beans is about 60%.
Most cigar humidors are set to 70% humidity, but if you have an adjustable humidor, you could try using that as a storage container.
If you don’t have access to an adjustable humidor, you can put your beans in a sealable plastic bag. Just suck the air out of the bag before sealing it. You could also use a hermetically sealed glass jar or an aluminum coffee canister with a vacuum pump closure.
Be sure to keep in mind the other factors, like temperature, before you decide. Oxygen is sometimes called the “enemy” of green bean storage, but in truth, your beans do need a little from time to time. Remember, that your beans are alive before they’re roasted.
If you intend to store the beans for a long time, open the container and shake the beans around occasionally before sealing it back up.
Do green coffee beans need light?
Look at the marketing photos for any coffee producer and you’re likely to see images of coffee beans laid out in the sun. It’s a common low-cost way to dry the fresh beans. Slow-drying this way protects a lot of the beans’ flavor.
Once those beans have been dried down to 11% moisture, they’re ready to be packed up.
Once you buy them, your green coffee beans shouldn’t see the light of day.
Leaving them in the sun, even on a countertop near a window, can change their temperature quite a bit in a few hours. With temperature fluctuations come humidity and flavor fluctuations, neither of which are your friends.
When you’re searching for the perfect green coffee container, always go with something opaque. If you’ve decided to go with plastic bags, just keep them out of the sun. You might place the plastic bags in a paper bag or a cloth grocery bag for an added layer of protection.
The stainless steel canisters offer good shelter from the sun and so do jute and hemp fiber bags. The only downside to the latter is that they leave your beans vulnerable to pests.
You don’t need to worry about exposing your green coffee beans to artificial light unless you have a grow light or a heat lamp. The main concern with sunlight is the heat and fading or bleaching of the beans. That shouldn’t occur with normal household lighting or LEDs.
Depending on your budget and the size of your operation, some storage solutions are more practical than others. If you’re keeping several tons of beans, resealable plastic bags might not be the best choice.
If your stash is only a couple of pounds, large jute fiber sacks probably aren’t the ideal option. Big or small, old fashioned or brand new, cute and colorful or shabby chic, whichever your container, keep the three elements in mind.
Keeping your beans the right temperature, the right humidity, and out of the sun will keep your beans from losing their flavors and aromas.
So, there you have it, now you know how to store green coffee beans. The better you stay within the beans’ ideal conditions, the better that cup of coffee will taste when you brew it up!